The main barrier to writing is not a lack of ideas but a lack of time. Our lives are packed to the brim with important and urgent things to do. But, don’t wait for the perfect writing opportunity to arrive – you must find it. Learn how to find the time to write, discover how other people schedule their writing and try these simple exercises to find time in your over busy schedule.
How writers schedule time
We love finding out how writers find the time to write. With over 1,300 responses to our scheduling survey we’ve found that people divide into four approaches in how they typically allocate time for writing. These are:
The daily doer
They have a regular routine, often working in the same time and place, to nudge forward their writing. They write in short doses and crave the predictability of a writing habit. Daily doers are highly productive – lots of research backs this up – but their love of process can mean that they resist going off on creative tangents and stepping outside a routine.
These writers look ahead a week or two and block time into their calendar for focused writing sessions. Super organized, they take a realistic and practical approach to planning and getting things done. They have to – they are busy people! Schedulers compartmentalise their writing time into chunks across the week or month but may find it hard when things don’t go to plan and life gets in the way.
The spontaneous writer
They grab any opportunity as it appears, making the most of delayed trains, cancelled meetings and sleeping children. Writing comes naturally to them – they are instinctive and can write anytime, anyplace, anywhere – at the drop of a hat. They don’t get distracted and can find their focus fast. But some struggle with organisation and planning – it’s all about just getting it done.
Their life is chock-full, so instead of a daily or weekly routine, they binge write every month or so. This isn’t deadline-driven panic-writing, but scheduled sessions of uninterrupted deep work – days that are as productive as they are rare. They tend to be strong-willed and independent writers who crave solitude and isolation. Whilst binging can work, it can lead to a poor work/life balance, and perfectionist tendencies by craving perfect conditions to write.
>> Related reads: Binge writing – reclaim your route to writing productivity
How to find the time to write
Exercise 1: self-assessment
So, which type are you? Think about your work, life and commitments. Consider which of the options best describes how you typically approach the scheduling of your writing projects. Are you:
- a daily doer
- a scheduler
- a spontaneous writer, or
- a binger?
The largest category from our research was the scheduler, though this varied depending on what they wrote and how long they had been writing for. Only a small minority called themselves spontaneous writers.
Exercise 2: look back
How do you currently spend your time? Look back on the past week or two and consider what’s getting your attention. Then, imagine you could re-live that time bearing in mind your current commitments. How would you re-organise your schedule? What different choices would you make? Were there any writing opportunities you missed? Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing.
Exercise 3: log
Turn the previous thought experiment into a data gathering exercise. Take the time to log how you spend your time over a week or more. Track your day-to-day activity as you do it to build up an accurate picture. Then go over your logs to re-evaluate what time you could have made for writing.
>> Related reads: Best laid plans: how to beat the planning fallacy and meet deadlines
Exercise 4: plan ahead
If you’ve done one or more of the exercises above, you’ll have a clearer idea of how you’d like to schedule time, whether it’s over a day, week or month. With that in mind, let’s look ahead.
Plan when you can make time. Grab your calendar, download a blank schedule or draw up a basic schedule with dates across the top and your normal waking hours down the side.
- Block out all the times you are already committed – work, childcare, socialising and exercise.
- What’s left? Are there any opportunities? If yes, book in some writing time.
- Not found any time? Reschedule other tasks to free up time. What can you stop doing or delegate? Can you get up earlier, go to work later? This is tough, but you can do it.
- Commit to your schedule. Book time for your writing like any other appointment, tell those closest to you to respect it and hold you accountable and don’t get distracted.
>> Related reads: You don’t need more willpower you need a better writing system
Prioritise your writing
There is no one-size fits all approach to making time, the important thing is to do it. If your writing is important you must prioritise it.
Don’t feel bad when you really don’t have the time, and when life gets in the way, but make the most of when you do. You’ll be surprised what you can achieve, even when you’re feeling tired and uninspired.
“If your writing is important you must prioritise it.”